Picture this — it’s a warm, sunny day and the birds are singing. You’re trying to enjoy a family picnic, but the bees are buzzing about. Should you pack it up and head inside? No!
The truth is, people misunderstand these insects. Most bees won’t go out of their way to ruin your day.
Here are seven bee myths about that are simply not true.
1. All Bees Sting
If you’ve been stung before, you might be cautious of any bee that enters your personal space. However, not all bee species — of which there are 20,000 — are known for their bad attitudes.
For starters, most bees can’t sting. Of the ones that can, around 500 species have such small stingers that experts refer to them as stingless. Only females can attack, as the barb is a modified version of their egg-laying organ. This tactic is only deployed in the most extreme situations when they feel threatened.
2. All Bees Live in Hives
We think of bees as creatures that live in colonies and work together. However, according to experts, less than 8% of all species are considered social and live with other individuals. Of the solitary bees, most do not live in hives.
Less than 3% of bees in the world live in traditional colonies. In North America, about 1,500 species — roughly 30% — live in tunnel-nests. These cavities, made of plant stems and beetle holes in wood, reside above ground.
3. All Bees Produce Honey
Many people love this insect for its honey-making capabilities. They produce a natural sweetener that’s an ideal addition to a cup of tea. However, less than 4% of bees make honey.
The most well-known species, the honey bee, makes beeswax and honey. Farmers also use them commercially to pollinate crops. However, the remaining 19,000 or so species produce no sweet stuff at all.
4. Bees Won’t Sting at Night
One common myth about bees is that they won’t stick you with their barbs at night. Unfortunately, this tale is not accurate.
In reality, bees will sting any time of day, whether it’s noon or midnight. They attack when they feel threatened — perhaps you got too close or swatted aggressively. The best way to avoid getting stung is to avoid wearing sweet fragrances and bright floral patterns.
5. Bees and Wasps Are the Same
A common misconception is that bees and wasps are the same. While they both belong to the same order of insects, Hymenoptera, they have different lifestyles and physical characteristics. One of the biggest lifestyle differences is that bees are pollinators, while wasps are predators that eat other insects.
6. Bees Can Sting Repeatedly
Honey bees can sting other insects multiple times. However, when they stick a mammal — such as a human — their barb gets stuck in the skin, and they die shortly after. Wasps often get mistaken for honey bees, but they tend to be more aggressive. Plus, they can prick you more than once.
While wasp stings have a similar effect as bee stings, their venom contains different toxic chemicals. Norepinephrine, for example, stops blood from flowing naturally around the wound. As a result, it can take several minutes for your bloodstream to carry away the toxins.
7. Fatal Bee Stings Are Common
When you get stung by a bee, what do you do? For most people, removing the stinger and applying an ice pack is enough. In fact, according to experts, only one or two out of every 1,000 people stung suffer an allergic reaction. Life-threatening symptoms affect roughly .05% of the population.
An allergic reaction happens when the body’s defense system kicks into high gear. During anaphylaxis, which is an extreme response, the blood vessels widen and severely lower blood pressure. A rash and swelling of the tongue and throat can occur.
Bees Deserve Respect, Too
A lot of misinformation surrounds bees. Some of us hear these myths from our parents, while others are passed along between friends. The result is that we’re afraid.
However, bees aren’t maniacal insects bent on hurting every human they see. They simply want to pollinate flowers and gorge themselves on nectar. That means if you understand some details about these amazing creatures, bees and humans can coexist in peace.